The Barbary Treaties 1786-1816
Treaty with Morocco - Hunter Miller's Notes

The city of Morocco, where the treaty was signed, is now known as Marrakesh.

The dates given are those recited; some doubt is cast upon their accuracy, however, by letter from Thomas Barclay, who negotiated the treaty with the Emperor of Morocco, addressed to Adams and Jefferson and dated at Morocco July 16, 1786, from which the following is extracted (Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783-1789, I, 814):

The 13th instant the treaty was sent to me by the Effendi, since which some important alterations have been made, which the villany and carelessness of the Talbe Houdrani (to whom the drawing was committed) made necessary; and yesterday it was again delivered from Tahar Fennish, to whose hands the King committed the arrangement of the matter. It still wants an additional article, or rather a declaration, which his Majesty has permitted to be made in his name, but which he desired might not make a part of the treaty.

In a letter of June 26, 1786, Barclay had written, "the last draft of the treaty is made, and will probably be signed in a few days" (ibid., 805).

The document signed by Jefferson and Adams, including the English translations of the treaty and of the additional article, is printed in full after the Arabic text of the treaty; following it is printed the Ship-Signals Agreement, with a comment on its two lines of Arabic script; then come the observations of Doctor Snouck Hurgronje regarding the English translation of 1786, with his own rendering of various articles.


The original document signed by Jefferson and Adams is in 91 C. C. Papers, I, folios 213-31. The Department of State file contains a facsimile of that document, the original of the treaty, and the original of the Ship-Signals Agreement; but the original of the additional article has not been found and accordingly cannot be reproduced. As to this article, Barclay reported (letter to Adams and Jefferson, October 2, 1786, Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783-1789, II, 695):

The original of the declaration made by Mr. Fennish could not be placed in the same book with the treaty sealed by the Emperor, the Moorish forms not permitting it; therefore, Mr. Fennish wrote it in another book, which I had placed in his hands, with a copy of the treaty for examination, in order that he might certify the verity of it, lest any accident should happen to the original; which book, with authenticated copies of the other papers, remains in my hands.

The original of the additional article appears to have been enclosed in a letter from Thomas Barclay to Jefferson, dated at Madrid December 4, 1786 (signed "copy" in 91 C. C. Papers, I, folios 21112), from which the following is an extract:

I now inclose you a Copy of the Declaration made by Tahar Fennish in addition to the 10th article of the Treaty with the Emperor of Morocco. It is in Arabic and sign'd by himself. the necessity of a Duplicate of that Declaration, did not appear obvious to me untill I got to Tangier, and within this hour it has reach'd me. you have also the Translation annex'd to it.

In the calendar of letters to Jefferson (Bulletin of the Bureau of Rolls and Library, No. 8, pt. 2, 36) this letter is listed "Press copy. 4°. 2 pages." The letter, which is in the Library of Congress (26 Thomas Jefferson Papers, folio 4477), is not a press copy, however; it is an original. There is no enclosure with it. In Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783-1789, II, 34, is printed a translation of the additional article, certified by Thomas Barclay under the date of the above-mentioned letter and referring to "the annexed declaration, in Arabic "; but that certified translation has not been found.


The United States instrument of ratification is copied in 135 C. C. Papers, I; also in Journals, 1823 ea., IV, 756-59. The two forms are not identical; the latter contains a paragraph mentioning the approval of the treaty by Jefferson and Adams which the former omits. Neither form mentions the Ship-Signals Agreement.

In the making of treaties, the procedure and customs of the various Barbary States differed somewhat inter se and were not in all respects those of usual diplomatic practice. Thus, in the present instance, the sealing on behalf of the Emperor of Morocco of the original treaty written in the "book," with the delivery thereof, was deemed a finality on the part of Morocco. The theory seems to have been somewhat similar to our notion of a unilaterally executed grant and its delivery, for the text in the "book" was not signed or sealed on behalf of the other party. It may be added that the "book" is literally a book, in leather covers, with the text running from the back leaf on alternate pages and the front pages blank.

The customs of Morocco were doubtless not known to Adams and Jefferson, for their commission to Barclay, following the language of their own commission from Congress (Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783-1789, I, 656-57), gave him authority only

. . . under our directions and instructions, to commence and prosecute negotiations and conferences for the said treaty, with such person or persons on the part of the Emperor of Morocco as his Majesty shall appoint and empower for that purpose-

Provided always, that the treaty in question shall be signed by us, but that preliminary articles thereto may, if previously approved by us, be signed by the said agent.

Indeed, such "missions by deputation" were criticized by Adams as "unknown to Courts and Ministers, and to the law of nations" (ibid., II, 802); but the practice had been suggested by him (Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, VI, 692).

The signing by Jefferson and Adams of the certified translations was therefore properly a part of their report to Congress of the result of the negotiation entrusted to them and delegated by them to Thomas Barclay; but the agreement was already complete on the part of Morocco and awaited only the ratification of Congress, and doubtless notice thereof, to become complete on both sides.

As was reported from Morocco some fifty years later:

The Treaty, it will be observed, being sealed by the Emperor according the diplomatic custom observed in this Empire, bears the form of a grant. Hence, it would be out of rule to deface the original with my signature or seal. I have therefore attached these to the copy and translation which will accompany the original, according to the usage observed by Diplomatic Agents in other parts of Barbary. (D. S., 5 Consular Despatches, Tangier, No. 39, October 11, 1836.)

The necessity of acceptance on the part of the United States was recognized, however, for Barclay wrote in one of his reports (letter to Adams and Jefferson, September 18, 1786, Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783-1789, II, 723):

I was asked to sign an acceptation of the articles on the part of the United States; but as the treaty was not drawn up in the form expected, I excused myself, (without, however, giving any offense,) referring Mr. Fennish to Congress and the Ministers.

A letter from Congress to the Emperor of Morocco notified the ratification of the treaty; the same letter indicates that it had been published and proclaimed (Secret Journals of Congress, IV, 365, July 23, 1787). With this letter the United States instrument of ratification was transmitted (Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783-1789, II, 44, 86). The letter and ratification were duly delivered to the Emperor of Morocco some time prior to August 17, 1788. The original of the letter of acknowledgment on the part of the Emperor of Morocco, dated that day and written in Arabic, is in the archives of the Department of State; and there is an Italian translation of it in 88 C. C. Papers, II, folio 524, as one of the enclosures to a letter ("triplicate") of November 5, 1788, from William Carmichael, Charge d'A~9Faires at Madrid, to Jay. In that letter (printed in Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783-1789, III, 370) Carmichael calls the acknowledgment of the Emperor of Morocco "the ratification of the treaty," and similarly in his letter to Jefferson of November 3, 1788 (43 Thomas Jefferson Papers, folio 7423), and in his letter to Jay of December 2, 1788 ("duplicate" in 88 C. C. Papers, II, folios 588-89, with no enclosures; that letter is printed in Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783-1789, III, 381-82; see also the two letters of Francisco Chiappe, ibid., 371-72). But, while doubtless a confirmation of the treaty, the letter of the Emperor of Morocco can hardly be deemed a ratification in any formal or technical sense.

The seal of the letter, which follows its opening phrases, is the same as that of the treaty; and as translated by Doctor Snouck Hurgronje, the letter reads thus:

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, and there is no might nor power but in God, the Great, the High.

From the servant of God, Muhammed, son of Abdallah, may God bestow His favor upon him. Amen!


To the Great One of the American States [Estados Amarikanos], the President. Peace be on those who follow the right guidance [i. e., the Mohammedan religion]! To come to the point: Your letter has reached us and also have reached us the articles of the Treaty of Peace which you have sent us, and we are with you on terms of complete truce and peace. We have now written what you wanted us to write to Tunis and Tripoli, and all that you have asked from us shall be fulfilled if God please. Greetings! Written in the middle in [the month Dhu] al-Qa'dah [Zu'lkadah] of the year two and two hundred and thousand 1202.

Doctor Snouck Hurgronje makes also the following comment on the letter:

Placing the seal at the head of the letter denotes great superiority in rank of the writer in comparison with that of the person to whom the letter is addressed.

"The Great One of . . ." is the title by which infidel rulers are addressed in letters from the Prophet. The greeting formula, " Peace be on those who follow the right guidance," is the classical one to be addressed to unbelievers, implying that they are not worth greeting.


There appears no official record of any separate proclamation of this treaty. The United States instrument of ratification, however, embodying the treaty and additional article in English, was published at the time (e. g., the Daily Advertiser, New York, July 21, 1787). The Department of State file now contains a facsimile of the newspaper print.

Accordingly, the instrument of ratification seems to have served as a proclamation and to have been regarded as such upon publication. As published it follows the form in the Journals, referred to above, and recites that the treaty was "written in the Arabic language " and "translated into the language of the said United States of America"; it contains no mention of the Ship-Signals Agreement.

As stated above, copies of the Ship-Signals Agreement were, on July 23,1787, ordered by Congress to be sent to the Executives of the States (Secret Journals of Congress, IV, 369, where the paper is called No. 6 instead of No. 7; see Diplomatic Correspondence, 17831789, II, 695). From that period to the present, however, the Ship-Signals Agreement seems never to have been printed, either in the diplomatic correspondence or elsewhere.


A treaty with Morocco was there regarded as to some degree personal on the part of the ruling Emperor, at least to the extent of requiring confirmation or recognition by a successor. Accordingly, soon after the death of the then Emperor, in April, 1790, negotiations to that end were initiated (see American State Papers, Foreign Relations, I, 104, 128, 288-90); but conflicts regarding the succession to the throne of Morocco continued for some years; after these were ended, a letter was written by the succeeding Emperor, dated at Rabat August 19, 1795 (2 Safar, A. U. 1210), recognizing the treaty with his father. For the papers in the matter, including a translation of the confirming letter, see ibid., 525-27.

Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America.
Edited by Hunter Miller
Volume 2
Documents 1-40 : 1776-1818
Washington : Government Printing Office, 1931.
127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.